Monday, May 31, 2010

Canvas

The Silver Vixen bought some frames and canvas at The Gadget Show Live, last month. (see photo2canvas) A little fiddling about with Picasa, some careful picture selection from the holiday and the judicious selection of features of the new printer have given us some lovely canvas copies of several of the best holiday photos. Not quite sure where they will hang yet, but they are looking excellent.

Routes

Ah ha! A little experimentation with train timetables and route plans reveals a fifth alternative commute route to Auntie. This one eschews the underground and relies on the normal rail network, but promises a significant saving on overall journey time.

Tomorrow’s experiment will reveal whether the promise is fulfilled.

Images

The Gorse Fox has been reviewing his Flickr account. He’s feeling quite chuffed as he has been contacted by a number of people and organisations and asked whether his images can be used elsewhere. This includes:

  • A travel guide for Washington
  • A travel guide for Barcelona
  • Plumpton Village website
  • The Solent Protection Society
  • Old Basing
  • An archaeologist in the Archaeology Department at the University of York
  • The author of an history book for schools
  • Notley Abbey (Vivien Leigh website)
  • One artist if it would be ok to interpret some of the photos on canvas
  • One lady asked if she could have the full quality original so that she could get it blown up to hang as a picture on her dining room wall.

GF is, of course, happy to share the images and glad that they have some use… all he asks is a) to be asked; and b) credited as the photographer.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Cruel

The Gorse Fox concludes that watching and supporting England’s football team must be like having a cruel mistress. So much promise but nothing but pain and disappointment.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Marvels of Technology

The Gorse Fox has approached this subject before – but again he’s been impressed with how technology can shrink the world. However, this was in the midst of technological frustration. Perhaps he should explain.

Recently his Belkin ADSL-Modem/Router has been crashing every more frequently. Each time it seems to require a power-off and reboot. On one occasion today a message flashed up about an IP address conflict – so GF tried to track it down. Software could not seem to identify the culprit, so GF started shutting machines off in the West Sussex data centre. As he got to his phone (yes, that too is WiFi and internet enabled) it warbled. “Fring” had picked up a message from Cousteau-cub in Thailand who had started playing with Skype on her laptop.  Debugging of the router dropped to the bottom of the queue as Skype was fired up and a call put through to Koh Lanta.

We had exceptional call quality and chatted to her and the Coventry Hobbit for over 30 minutes. We even had out camera switched on so that she could see us (even if we couldn’t see her as that old laptop did not have a camera). Even as a bit of a geek, the Gorse Fox still finds features such as Skype to be incredible and that fact that we can sit and chat with C-C/C-H in Thailand (for zero cost) is just brilliant.

Never got round to solving the router problem… but will never buy Belkin routers again. GF suspects that he will revert to Netgear next time he changes.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Fin de Siècle

Gorse Fox woke early. Very early. In fact very, very early. He stayed put and treated it as a lie-in.

Work was good, though a bit slow.

GF decided to try a fourth route home. First heading for Hammersmith, then along to Victoria on the District Line. This proved to be the most convenient of the routes tried this week, but didn’t actually save any measurable time.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Dorian Gray

And so...

The day started in a similar fashion to yesterday. A nice 25 minute walk to the office and breakfast in the restaurant. The overnight rain had cleared and the stroll, whilst cool, was quiet pleasant.

Lat morning GF got the call. Security was ready to process him in preparation to issue a badege. His colleague went first and whilst not subjected to a cavity search was interrogated before having his photo taken and a temporary badge issued, pro temps. Next, it was the Gorse Fox's turn.
"Name?" screamed Frau Torquemada.

"Gorse Fox" came the reply "G. O. R. S. E.  F. O. X." 
The screen flashed in front of her. "Did you verk vith us before?"
He admitted that he had.

"Vell," she said "you haven't changed. Your photo on file looks just like you. Dismissed".
It has been 10 years since that photo was taken, The Gorse Fox was absolutely delighted that he has apparently found his Dorian Gray moment and has ceased ageing.

It wasn't such a bad day after all!

After work, the Gorse Fox joined some colleagues for dinner at Kleftiko, the Greek restaurant opposite the hotel. The food was excellent - though GF suspects that a small cloud of garlic fumes is following him around at present

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Not a lot


It's been a good day. A good long night's sleep, an early cup of tea in the room and then no commute to speak of... just a quiet stroll from the hotel to the office. Breakfast in the client's restaurant was satisfying and a fraction of the price the hotel would charge and head and shoulders better than anything at Starfleet. Here's to Greek yoghurt, dried fruit, and granola followed by a bacon baguette!

The work day was really very stimulating - lots of interesting problems to consider, lots of conflicting requirements, and some very smart people. What a pleasure.

GF left and wandered down to the Westfield Centre - huge, but only a fraction of the size of MBK in Bangkok and no Food on 5th Avenue! There's a huge selection of restaurants on the terrace - but no Indian. This meant that Gorse Fox had to fall back on Wagamama's again. This is no sacrifice, he would point out.

Tonight's feast complete, Gorse Fox headed back to the hotel and phoned the Silver Vixen to catch up on news from the coast.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Bijou


The Gorse Fox is not saying his accommodation is "bijou", but he had to let a fly out of his room to make space for him to enter.

A full day


The day started with the first sensible train out of the village... the recent timetable change meant that this was scheduled to leave at 06:40 (10 minutes earlier than before)... but ended up arriving at London Bridge later than before the schedule changes. GF then had to charge across the bridge and plummet into Monument Tube and zig zag up and down and left and right to Bank to pick up the Central Line. GF was carrying his laptop bag and his travel bag and was losing his sense of humour by the time he arrived at the platform and saw the first 2 trains leave crammed to the gunwales. Eventually he arrived at Auntie's after three hours of travelling. The conclusion that he has to come to is that whatever route he takes... it's 3 hours each way.

It was a good but busy day in the office... but you really don't want to know about that.

GF left soon after 1800 and strolled along past the the Westfield Centre to his hotel, checked in, dumped his gear and then headed back out for something to eat. The Westfield Centre offers plenty of choice but GF was drawn back to Wagamama like a Walrus sized moth to a bonfire. Crsipy chilli squid and Chilli chicken men with a glass or Merlot seemed an adequate end to the working day.

Full day

The day started with the first sensible train out of the village... the recent timetable change meant that this was scheduled to leave at 06:40 (10 minutes earlier than before)... but ended up arriving at London Bridge later than before the schedule changes. GF then had to charge across the bridge and plummet into Monument Tube and zig zag up and down and left and right to Bank to pick up the Central Line. GF was carrying his laptop bag and his travel bag and was losing his sense of humour by the time he arrived at the platform and saw the first 2 trains leave crammed to the gunwales. Eventually he arrived at Auntie's after three hours of travelling. The conclusion that he has to come to is that whatever route he takes... it's 3 hours each way.

It was a good but busy day in the office... but you really don't want to know about that.

GF left soon after 1800 and strolled along past the the Westfield Centre to his hotel, checked in, dumped his gear and then headed back out for something to eat. The Westfield Centre offers plenty of choice but GF was drawn back to Wagamama like a Walrus sized moth to a bonfire. Crsipy chilli squid and Chilli chicken men with a glass or Merlot seemed an adequate end to the working day.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Commuting

New project started today - very interesting and some challenges that will occupy the little grey cells for a while. Problem, interestingly, revolves around media editing and managing 5-7 Petabytes of information per year.

Only real problem, so far, is the 3 hour commute in each direction. GF has decided to stay in a hotel for the rest of the week.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

On a Wing

It was stunning day here on the coast. Not the slightest whisp of cloud interrupted the clear blue sky. The temperature rose to the upper 20s and all was well in the County of Sussex.

The Gorse Fox and Silver Vixen were expecting a visit from Betty and Barney Rubble so GF was keen to finish the video rather than subject our friends to thousands of photos. The rendering process seems to take a very long time, but the automatic soundtrack generation was very impressive.

Lunch was booked at the Arun View in LA. Though service was slow, this was understandable as they were so busy… and the skate wings were well worth waiting for.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Editing

Most of the day has been spent downloading and evaluating various video editing suites. Corel, Pinnacle, Adobe, Sony, Microsoft all had offerings and the Gorse Fox was already familiar with Cyberlink. Adobe seemed pretty good and is probably the best known – but it was a bit clunky and the online write-ups were scathing. For now, Pinnacle looks like the best bet – and whilst it has some limitations it seems to do all that GF requires.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Searching

The Gorse Fox spent some more time searching for the small batch of access cards, membership cards, railway passes and so forth. Again he is proud to say that his idea of hiding them somewhere safe has proved to be immensely secure. Again he has has been thwarted in his hunt for them.

The other, non work-related, task has revolved around video production (though an understanding of this may prove very useful in the new project starting on Monday). Usually, GF tries to produce a DVD of each of our various holidays. It is all very fine returning from a trip with thousands of photos and tens of videos – but it takes a masochist to want to sit through and view it. He tries, therefore, to cut the whole lot down to cover the best photos and videos of the vacation, whilst still trying to include the major sights and events. In the past he has used various tools for this, but since getting his new computer has had to look for new products. During the last few years some of his favoured products have been bought up buy other companies or gone through numerous upgrades.

No conclusion has been drawn, thus far. Some further experimentation is needed. The area where GF seems to be having the most challenges so far is in the addition of a soundtrack and finding ways to stretch or compress timelines for selections of slides.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Printer

Gorse Fox’s new printer arrived yesterday. Very sleek. WiFi connected and also provides scan and copy functions. One nice bonus is that it has a fitting for scanning photographic slides – any very it does it too!

Corporate Events

Starfleet held a corporate event. To be fair, they probably hold lots of them – visiting dignitaries or warlords from galaxies far away, and so forth. This one was internal and featured over 300 troopers from the Gorse Fox’s division.

Like most corporate events it had its high points and low points. It had its good speakers and its poor speakers… and it had a “networking” session. This should have been filmed and put on YouTube. This would have had people quaking in their boots (or more likely, slitting their sides laughing). The basic premise was as follows:

  • Take 300 people and mix them up into groups of eight or so.
  • Humiliate them by making them stand up (as a group) and clap the “football clap” in unison.
  • Then give them hard, plastic tubes tuned to several different frequencies. (See http://www.boomwhack.com).
  • Clustering groups with tubes tuned to the same frequency, get each to pay a specific rhythm.
  • Slowly introduce other frequencies and other rhythms.
  • Then orchestrate the groups to create music.

It sounds bizarre, but the Gorse Fox (despite his innate cynicism) loved it and was very impressed with what was achieved. Certainly a team building exercise that will be remembered.

Like many events it finished with a BBQ and drinks. Like most events the drinks were welcome, but un-quaffed as there was a drive home to contemplate – however the BBQ looked good. Like so many, though, it flattered to deceive as the sausages were undercooked, the burger were chewy and the chicken was they only saving grace. It did give a chance to catch up with some old colleagues, however, so all was not lost.

MMmm. Looks like GF will be getting involved with a new project next week.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Quiet

It has been a quiet day, work wise. GF has been analysing some legacy configurations. Rather boring really.

Much more interesting evening spent producing the video of the Thailand trip. First draft is done – few tweaks still required and also the soundtrack. That will have to wait for the weekend.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Botheration

Why?

When the Gorse Fox went away his nice printer was working. After 4 or 5 years it was still delivering the quality and function he had bought it for – You can rely on Canon printers. After a couple of weeks away he has returned to find the printer is sulking and does not wish to function.

The Gorse Fox had a word with the nice Mr Amazon and he has promised that a new sparkly machine will arrive in the morning.

Gaining a Day

No, this is not a further trick perpetrated by international travel.

The Gorse Fox spent a day at Starfleet up in London. He was attending a class that was scheduled (in his diary) for two days. You can imagine his delight, therefore, when the course turned out to be a single day – not two. This means a chance to spend a day working from home and catching up on all and sundry.

Looking out the study window, it appears we have a lovely start to the day.
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Monday, May 17, 2010

Hiding

The problem with going away is that you decide to secure a number of things before leaving. The Gorse Fox, mindful of this, stripped his credit card wallet of a number of items irrelevant to the trip. Now he has returned and requires said items, he cannot remember where he his them!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Lag

Jet lag is a frustrating outcome of long haul travel. The Gorse Fox is lucky that over the years he has had very little trouble from said affliction. Even this time (after so long without any distant travel) the worst effect seems to be that he awoke early this morning – and feels chilly.

Much of Sunday, so far, has been spent filtering down the emails that had accumulated in his work mailbox during his absence. One of these insisted that he change his existing security and under Starfleet’s instruction is now installing PGP encryption on his laptop. What a waste of several hours this is turning out to be. Never mind! GF is back up to London for a Starfleet training course on Monday and Tuesday.

We did manage to get through to Cousteau-cub for a chat. It seems that she had motorbike trouble after leaving us on Friday – but hopefully it will be sorted tomorrow.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Travel

Travel is always an experience and door-to-door it has taken 25 hours to get home. This involved a two and a quarter hour transfer from the hotel (involving 2 ferry crossings) – a 2 hour wait for our first flight, and 1 hour flight to Bangkok, and then a four or five hour lay-over in the airport before the UK flight.IMG_6732 The Gorse Fox like Bangkok Airport. It has to be be one of the best thought-out and best designed airports he has ever visited.

The shops stretch for nearly a kilometre along the 4th level, but at the departure level it is quiet and relaxed and the reflections of people moving about the concourse can be glimpsed in the curved windows.

The flight was busy, so not as comfortable as that going out – but it landed on time. It was nice to be home and await the confusion of Heathrow baggage handling (in Thailand they tell you the carousel that your luggage will be on before you land – at Heathrow we waited 25 minutes for them to put it on the display and another 20 minutes or so for any but priority luggage to arrive.

Urban-cub and her friend (nickname yet to be selected) were waiting for us to whisk us back to the coast.

It’s nice to be home… but already missing Cousteau-cub & the Coventry Hobbit

Friday, May 14, 2010

Preparations

Once the internet check-in was complete we could worry about the more important things – like breakfast. We chatted to the Maitre D’ and it was clear that the economic crisis and the media’s ridiculous overreaction to the isolated trouble in Bangkok was having a serious impact on trade. The resort only had 5 rooms occupied – and 120 staff. This was going to be tough summer (low season) for the islands.

(Now to put the media overreaction in perspective… let’s assume this was happening in the UK. Protestors were blockading the Square Mile… and nowhere else in the country did you see them… and the world’s media said “Don’t go to the UK because of the unrest” – That’s the reality. We are being advised not to travel to Thailand because of trouble that is isolated to about 1 square mile of one city.) The only impact we have seen is a few extra police on the streets in Bangkok when we were there. But “Hey! let’s not allow the facts to get in the way of a big story”.

Checked

Checked-in via the internet... everything under control. (Famous last words)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Did you think…

IMG_6707 that the Gorse Fox would finish the day without a sunset?

Dry…

IMG_6689 At least we stayed dry down here in the south. It was clear that someone was getting a pounding further north.

On Mosquitoes

The Koh Lanta mosquito is a voracious little beggar. The Gorse Fox is usually pretty immune to their ministering, but here he has provided a feast for them, their brothers, their sisters, and even their distant cousins. His legs look like freshly cooked pizza to mosquitoes and after the feast they do actually begin to look like freshly cooked pizza!

Wet

The monsoon pyrotechnics of the previous evening were less evident as we prepared for dinner. C-c and C-H were meeting us at our resort and it was only when we sent they returned a message that we became aware that it was raining and they were sheltering at reception.

The Gorse Fox looked out. Rain was perhaps an understatement. We seemed to be in a solid wall of water. A call to reception summoned transport to get us the few hundred yards to meet up. The rain continued as we headed northwards to a restaurant run by an ex-pat. This is a favourite of the divers as it provides an English-style menu with huge portions for a reasonable price. A treat to be savoured once ion a while.

The meal was indeed heroic in proportions and as we munched our way through the chicken, the ribs, the lamb and goodness knows what else the rain stopped, started again, stopped, and started again.

Replete, we headed back into the steamy wet night. The rain had not abated for long and we eased our way back south. An E.M.S. truck raced past us to deal with trouble up ahead somewhere, but then as we negotiated a bend the rain stopped, and the road ahead was already dry. It was as if someone had drawn a line across the road to say where the rain should stop.

Back at the resort we parted company with C-c and C-H and retired to our room. Spots of rain were just beginning to fall again. Clearly it was going to rain again, but once in our room that was of little concern. There were a few power-cuts during the night – only noticeable because the temperature in the room began to rise as the air-conditioning failed, but that was fairly soon rectified. The Gorse Fox would guess they are pretty used to this.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sunset will resume

IMG_6684 And after last night’s lack of sunset, today’s was fairly mediocre by local standards. But ever mindful of his duty, the Gorse Fox offers this as evidence that the sun did go down.

Some things need to seen

IMG_6679 There are some things that you have to take the time to see. The Silver Vixen had wandered off with the Coventry Hobbit a few days ago to see the local elephants, but the Gorse Fox was diving and missed out. As the afternoon wore on we decided that we should say hello to these magnificent beasts.


IMG_6681 Cuddly may not quite be an appropriate word... but mighty cute.
IMG_6682
IMG_6683

Getting stuff done.

Firstly it is clear that it is now safe to come back to to the UK. Sense has prevailed and an interesting alliance formed. Better still the forces of evil have been banished from Government.

There was stuff to get get done. The tyre needed fixing, some shopping was needed, and the Gorse Fox had to settle up his bill with the awesome Scubafish Divers. We met up with Cousteau-cub and Coventry Hobbit and got directions to a man who does tyres. Directions were all very fine, but we missed it and ended up on the way in toward Sala Dan where we found an outfit that we approached. He took one look at the tyre and said he’s fix it.

Gorse Fox and the Coventry Hobbit watched in amazement as he located the nail that had caused the problem and pulled it out. Then he plunged an awl into the hole. Meanwhile he fed a rubbery/plasticy material through the eye of another awl and coated the area of the tyre and the strip of “stuff” in some form of gelatinous compound. The first awl was removed, the new awl with the “stuff” was plunged into the hole. and then withdrawn, leaving the stuff to plug the hole. A few seconds later the tyre was re-inflated and back on the truck. This whole process had taken no more than 5 minutes. Gorse Fox compared this to the UK where such a process would probably have meant a new tyre and cost £150 (plus). Here – 200Baht. (yes, £4).

IMAG0115 Shaking his head in ongoing amazement and still speechless we headed north to downtown Sala Dan. Silver Vixen and Cousteau-cub wanted shopping. Coventry Hobbit and Gorse Fox wanted beer. It seemed a perfect accommodation – a shop next to a bar. Eventually we had to move on as C-H was on duty in the shop during the afternoon. Dropping him at Narima, we carried on down to Kantiang Bay to provide a little computing consultancy to Scubafish…. and settle up the bill for the diving and the instruction.

Then it was back to Narima for a swim and to decide on the plan for the evening.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Summary

Ok – a summary.

Tyre flat – dealt with and described.

Politics – no further comment.

But what about the rest of the day?

TheIMG_4609 daywas spent at Narima with Cousteau-cub who was manning the shop. The weather was really hot and very humid. This meant dropping into the pool to cool off. Once in, however, it was very difficult to get back out so we just stayed there, drifting back and forth.


Eventually it was time for the shop to close for lunch so we dried off – having checked for messages or emails then C-c grabbed Bruno and we walked to the next bay. IMG_4617 This, again proved too enticing, so we put on fins and masks and crashed back into the surf. (Note to self – the use of shin and calf as a break when crossing underwater rocks is not advised).

The dog was playful and enjoyed his romp in the surf but once back on the sand he rolled and twisted until covered in sand. Bruno was taken back to the house and we returned to Narima – re-opened the shop and dropped back into the pool.


The afternoon sped by and as we prepared for the sunset it became clear that it was not clear. IMG_6628 In fact the horizon was obscured and lightning was beginning to flash around. As a result we were witness to an hour’s spectacular light show as the lightning flashed across the heavens and crashed down across Koh Haa and Koh Rock. No sunset photo tonight, but GF hopes that theses will do instead.


IMG_6605

Flash

It has become very still. Lightning is flashing across the sky and thunder is rattling the heavens. May well be some rain on the way!

The rancid taste of politics

Reading the overnight news, the rancid taste of politics rises in the back of the throat as the sleazy side of Labour reveals that it has swung into action to to try and cling on to power despite having over 60% of the population vote against them. In moves that would make Mugabe proud, GoBro says he’ll stand aside and “pretty please” will someone be their friend. “Pretty please” will someone team up with Mandelson (the Princess of Darkness) and the Soupmeister and allow them to continue the great experiment – destruction of our nation.

Flat

As you near the end of a holiday things can feel a bit flat. This was taken to extremes this morning when we arrived at the truck and found the rear tyre was completely devoid of air. It was hot and GF did not relish the task of changing said tyre. He raided the cab, but no tools were evident so he opened the manual. Whilst the diagrams were informative to an extent, the text was in Thai, severely limiting understanding.

The Gose Fox went to reception and they called a man. The man came, looked at the problem and pointed out where the spare was. This was the one fact the GF already knew! Two more chaps turned up and assessed the situation. Got down on the ground and got to work. A few minutes later amidst a growing pool of perspiration the job was done, the new tyre in place, and the dead tyre in the pickup. GF parted with some coin of the realm and the men thanked him and offered any further help that may be needed.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Recovery time

The Gorse Fox crashed out soon after 2130 and slept the sleep known as scuba-sleep until 0800. Even then, when he awoke, he felt slightly disorientated and seemed to have developed some catarrh overnight. (He always wanted to be musical).

By this time Cousteau-cub and the Coventry Hobbit would already be aboard their boat heading south for a day’s diving at Hin Daeng. GF had been invited along (as a qualified Open Water Diver – Scuba Fox) , but is glad that he declined… in the circumstances. Today needed to be a quiet day.

The Silver Vixen and GF headed down to breakfast. An early haze was lifting and it promised to be a blistering day. IMAG0104 Breakfast was the usual leisurely fare. Trays full of fruit, of breads, of nibbles, and a choice of various main dishes. The staff are always very attentive and very friendly and the outlook from the veranda across the landscaped grounds is very relaxing – with a continual tinkling of running water as the water cascades down between the different levels.


The morning was spent dealing with post cards and listening to our books on the balcony of the room. Then we decided (like Mad Dogs and Englishmen) to go out in the mid-day sun. Silver Vixen had seen a store she wanted to look around and whilst it was not far, in this heat it was far more sensible to drive there than walk. The trip was not as successful as planned but some trinkets were acquired in exchange for small amounts of money. IMG_6374 Leaving there we headed up the mountain and stopped at the viewpoint Khao Yai overlooking the eastern side of the Island. This is where we had stopped a couple of days back after our visit of Lanta Old Town. Again we were the only patrons and sat there admiring the view, drinking lassis and sharing a club sandwich. It was hot – really hot and anything that did not involve air conditioning seemed daft. So, understanding the basic fact that there are only 2 roads on the island and we had driven to end of one of them – we decided to complete the set. Heading on south, past Lanta Old Town we made our way past several plantations and small settlements as the road hugged the coast. The views opened up across the bay here and there – but to be honest this was not the most exciting drive of the Gorse Fox’s life. At the end of the road we turned and headed back. Arriving back at the resort we had only covered 24KMs since leaving the viewpoint. (It is not a big island).


As the sun starts its inexorable descent into the sea alongside Koh Phi Phi we prepare for the evening meal. IMG_6387 We decided that with the long day C-c and C-H will have had, we would leave them alone tonight, so the biggest decision we have to make is what to select from the menu and in what restaurant.

(Yes, another tropical sunset photo!)

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Another Gratuitous Sunset

Another fabulous sunset as seen from our room.
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Scuba

0630 saw the Gorse Fox up and about and preparing for another adventure. The Silver Vixen opted to stay in bed and enjoy a cup of tea and her book. The Gorse Fox bade adieu and headed south to Kantiang Bay where he met up with Cousteau-cub.

Today was to be the second pair of dives needed for his “Open Water” diver’s qualification. A throng assembled. He would like to have thought they were well-wishers, but actually they were just other divers lost in their own thoughts preparing for today’s adventure.

The speed boat was pretty full, with 16 divers, the boat crew, and five or six instructors. The destination, as before, was Koh Haa. This is fine because it’s only 35 minutes to and from the site. As before, the Gorse Fox had personal attention fro Cousteau-cub and this time there was a student doing his Dive Master who was along to observe. Stepping off the back of the boat into the blue saw the Gorse Fox bob back to the surface where he had to show how he could get into his scuba gear in the water. With all the grace of a walrus (mountaineering) he managed to push the gear down and slip his arms through the correct opening and do up all of the fastenings. Then he had to put on his weight belt in the water. This involves holding the belt in one hand whilst rolling such that the belt warps itself across your back and you do it up whilst face-down. Again this was not an elegant motion, but again it was completed without fuss or grace.

Descending to the bottom GF managed to take on sea-water. This was neither pleasant, nor intentional – and it certainly made the next few minutes a little unpleasant. He had to practise a controlled swimming ascent (CESA) that went without incident, and then kneeling on the bottom had to remove his scuba equipment then put it back on, and finally remove his weight-belt and put it back on. Skills demonstrated it was time to enjoy the dive and we headed off round the coral surrounding one of the limestone karst stacks. This time the Gorse Fox was allowed to go deeper and stay under for longer. It was a magical world with angel fish, clown fish, barracuda, octopus, eels, sea snakes, box fish and so forth. The corals themselves were a fantastic mixture of hues – reds, russets, yellow, vibrant blues, whites and so forth. Unfortunately the magical mystery tour had to come to an end and we recovered the surface, got back on the boat and rested until the next dive.

Again curry and rice was the order of the day – creating a good ballast and store of carbohydrate for the body to call on. The heat was stifling and the air was so thick you could almost cut it. The thought of another dive was an exciting relief and meant that we would soon be back breathing dry, cool air, albeit in 31c water.

IMG_6349 We rested nearly 90 minutes between the dives and then began the second adventure. This saw Cousteau-cub, the Gorse Fox and the trainee Dive Master drop over the side and swim to the wall of the island. Then, working with the surge we dropped below the surface and entered the peace of the underwater realm. GF had the last of his skills to exhibit – with a full mask removal and replacement and then underwater navigation with a compass. Done, we then headed round the island to huge cavern below the surface. Entering we marvelled at the way the various fish were silhouetted against the light behind us, and we looked for some of the denizens that C-c had expected to find. This time we were not so lucky and they had obviously gone off for morning coffee. We swam from one cavern into another even larger one, known as the Cathedral. We had discussed surfacing in there, but decided the surge was too strong so moved on through another passageway to exit back out into the mottled sunlight below the waves.

After about 45 minutes we headed back to the surface, climbed aboard the boat and headed back to land. With the exception of the final exam – GF had completed his course… and was feeling smug.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Gratuitous Sunset Photo

IMG_6344

As the sun set on another blistering day (boat captain said it was 41C) we showered and prepared to head the few kilometres south to meet up with Cousteau-cub and the Coventry Hobbit for dinner.

Islands

Saturday (it is Saturday, isn’t it?) saw the alarm set early. Cousteau-cub would be waiting in the car park at 07:20 and we would be heading nort to Sala Dan. As things worked out, C-c was late. Unlike her. When she turned up, however, the reason became clear. She had caught her long skirt in her motorcycle chain and needed help from some passing (very amused) Thai people to free her but ripping her skirt with an old razor blade.

Anyway, crisis averted we headed north in the car to Sala Dan (about 12 kms) and parked by the ferry pier. IMG_6303Here we would pick up the passenger ferry to take us across to Ko Phi Phi, so long her home.

We were early for the ferry (the car being so much quicker than the motorbikes on which the journey was based). This gave us time to have a look around the harbour-side and see all of the houses on stilts jockeying for space along the waterfront. We boarded and made ourselves comfortable before the inevitable last minute rush.


The crossing to Phi Phi takes about an hour and fortunately the sea was like a mill pond (without the swans and haywains). The boat moored briefly alongside another ferry to transfer the Phuket-bound passengers, then continued in to the main pier for the island. This came as a bit of a surprise. It was far more commercialised that the Gorse Fox had expected and has obviously become a victim of its own popularity. As we disembarked and headed along the pier we were accosted by people offering taxi-boat trips, boat trips, dives, accommodation, and goodness knows what else.IMG_6331 Following Cousteau-cub we strode straight through the middle of the island and out the other side into the bay where she had been based.

This was like walking through a stargate from the chaos of the pier and the shops and stalls to the tranquillity of the bay. The white talcum-like sand was unmarked as we strolled along the water-line to the corner of the beach where C-c’s friend Mel, husband Ben and daughter lived in a splendid bar called Sunflower.  Ben lost his first wife and children in the tsunami – and indeed 18 members of his family.
IMG_6335 So much was lost in 7 minutes and he said it is his duty to rebuild in 7 years.

The Sunflower has all been built using reclaimed flotsam from the tsunami, and even the tables are chunks of old longtails. Very moving.


Being low season, the normal ferry schedules had been changed. As a result we had to catch an 1130 crossing back to Koh Lanta.2010-05-08 This limited what we could see, but saying goodbye to Mel and Ben we headed back to the centre of the island and the throng. Stopping to look in a few stalls and pick up some Danish pastries for breakfast it was soon time to catch the ferry for the trip back. It is easy to see what Ko Phi Phi once was, but it has become a victim of its own success and it is easy to see why Cousteau-cub and the Coventry Hobbit moved to Koh Lanta.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Old Town

Cousteau-cub and the Coventry Hobbit had a day where they were not needed in the shop or on a boat. Soon afterr breakfast C-c joined us and we set off on some exploring.

Now first it is important to understand that exploration by car is limited – there are only 2 roads on the island. We decided to take the eastern fork and across the mountain to the east side of the island and to visit Lanta Old Town.  IMG_6232 This is the oldest proper settlement on the island (the clue is in the name) and is a charming ribbon settlement of clapboard houses and wooden shops built on stilts over the shoreline. At high tide the waters lap beneath the houses, but we were there at low tide, so only a few of the deeper dwellings bestrode the lapping waves beneath.


The temperature was soaring and the streets were deserted. It reminded the Gorse Fox of the set from a long forgotten western. We strolled along the main street and made the odd stop at shops that sold fabrics or knick-knacks. There was an eerie tranquillity about the place that was quite alluring. 2010-05-07 The heat, being what it was (just a hair’s breadth below 100F) drove us into a small restaurant perched on stilts out in the bay.

Fresh lemon juice, fresh pineapple, and mango juice quenched the thirst as we sat and watched the waters lap the bay and the few clouds progress across the sky. This was a fabulous spot and the views were quite amazing.


Dragging ourselves away we headed back down the main street to where we had left the car. Then pottering back up the mountain we stopped at another restaurant with a view over the whole eastern channel and its islands. IMG_4545 Coventry Hobbit was there to meet us and we enjoyed anothr cold drink whilst discussing plans for the afternoon.

There several suggestions, but in the end the plan was to take the road south towards the lighthouse, then head to Kantiang Bay (where the dive shop is) so that Silver Vixen could see it in daylight.


The first part of the journey south was fairly straightforward, but just at the southern end of Kantiang Bay the road peters out. With the exception of a few very short paved stretches, it seemed to be a dirt track for several kilometres. 2010-05-071 We ventured as far as Klong Jak where we stopped to find out about the elephants bathing habits, to admire the bay, and to take on more fluids.

We debated whether to continue to the lighthouse, but GF was nervous about the impact of the unpaved road on the Silver Vixen so we decided to turn back.

We stopped at the dive shop on the way back – this allowed C-c and the C-H to check on plans for the next few days and the Silver Vixen got a chance to see the Sunday Times’ 9th best beach in the world.


It was hot and time to cool off. We headed back to the resort and spent and hour or so in the pool before showering to get ready for dinner.IMG_6299 There was the customary sunset to admire… but we were in a hurry to meet up again and grab something to eat.

We chose a place at random – and this seemed to be where it was all happening. The bar owner was celebrating his birthday. This meant that was psychedelic music from the late 60’s, there was a crowd, and we sat out on the beach like hippies enjoying out food and a cold drink. As we prepared to leave the owner came round offering marijuana cakes – we respectfully declined, so he came back round with some genuine victoria sponge for us a few minutes later. The Gorse Fox suspect the roads will be carnage later tonight!


(You might expect the Gorse Fox to make some comment regarding the election. He is going to limit himself to expressing his despair that so many of his countrymen voted for the continuation of Labour’s destruction of the United Kingdom, its freedoms, its traditions, and its peoples. A better excuse for eugenics he cannot imagine).

Rumours

Rumours swept the dive community yesterday. It appears that there had been a sighting of a rare t-shirt on an anonymous diver, some 30 metres down near an island at the south of Ko Lanta.

_-2 The Gorse Fox approached Viki the Lens and sure enough amongst all of the photos shot that day we found the evidence.

It isn’t clear who this is, or which of the world-wide tour dates was the source of the t-shirt, but it is clear that Cardinal Sin and the Bum Notes’ fan base spreads far and wide. Who was this masked stranger? We may never know.


The Gorse Fox was excited by this find. That the popular beat combo’s reputation had spread even to the islands of the Andaman Sea seemed extraordinary. Ko Haa-2 During his dives he kept his eyes peeled. Though diving in a different spot, would this masked stranger turn up? Better than that. As Cousteau-cub helped the Gorse Fox become accustomed to this new and enchanting environment they swam past to more CS&BN fans posing for a photo. One, so incredibly cool that she eschewed the traditional diver’s mask, for sun glasses.


Ko Haa-4

The other, not so cool, but posing nonetheless.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Momentous Events

Thursday started early for the Gorse Fox (actually, very early  as he found that sleep eluded him most of the night). He was up and out of the room before seven and striding purposefully (and with a degree of trepidation) down to the car for a rendezvous with Cousteau-cub and the Coventry Hobbit.

Driving here is a bit hit and miss. (OK, that’s a bad turn of phrase). Driving here requires that you keep your wits very much about you as you watch for all sorts of crazy manoeuvres by the riders on the scooters (some, quite literally, children), and their passengers – yes many of the scooter may have three or or four passengers sharing the pillion. GF avoided incident on his drive south, but was pleasantly startled by the sight of a mahout riding a huge bull elephant along the road towards him. Not the sort of obstacle one gets used to on the A259!

First things first. Once GF arrived at the resort he checked the WiFi status so that he could find the scores from last nights game. Delighted that Spurs had beaten ne’er-do-wells of Manchester and achieved Champions League for next season boded well for the day. IMG_6208 Administrative details complete, and other divers assembled we were soon on the speed boat heading west towards Ko Haa (5 Islands) where the next stage of GF’s diver training was to take place.

This small group of islands comprises a number of limestone stacks and a small sandy lagoon. It is part of a marine park and protected – a responsibility that “Scubafish” take very seriously.

The Coventry Hobbit completed his briefing of his clutch of divers and they entered the water. GF got the gear on – fins, buoyancy control device, scuba tank, regulator set and mask. Clutching the regulator and mask to his face he stepped off the back of the boat. And so began the next part of the training in the capable hands of Cousteau-cub.


Some 43 minutes later, GF surfaced from the deep. He had seen more exotic fish in these few minutes than he had seen in his life, and without  realising had been over 11 metres below the surface. The anxiety of the pool sessions melted away and the wonder of the sights on offer made the heart soar. Unfortunately, when he surfaced, the ingress of salt water into his smiling mouth had the effect of inducing a coughing fit – but that will remain all that is said of that.

Back on the boat we moved round to the lagoon. It was about 10 on the morning – and that my friends is time for a Massaman Curry. IMG_6221 We were resting prior to the second planned dive and need some degree of sustenance. Some ignored the curry and for the whimps option of fruit, but GF decided he needed to have a little more ballast.

The 90 minute stop gave us a chance to let some of the nitrogen disperse, and gave us time to gather strength for the next dive. Some of the others used the time to snorkel across to the beach. GF decided that, at his age, energy was not there to be squandered.

The second dive went much as the first. GF stepped into the blue and Cousteau-cub took him through some exercises to show that he had grasped the theory correctly. Then, we slowly descended and swam slowly around the island. We reached a depth of 12m and remained under water for 54 minutes. As we circumnavigated the limestone stack we saw the fantastic shapes and colours of the coral, the tiny fish that hid among their fronds, squid (and their eggs), a Moses sole, a school of barracuda, clown fish, angel fish, moray eels, sea cucumbers, and as we swam through an overhang the Gorse Fox couldn’t help but marvel that he had had such an opportunity.

The boat headed back for bay from we left. The journey back was quiet as we all seemed lost in our thoughts or were dozing.
IMG_6224 Log books needed to be filled in and Vicky, the photographer who had accompanied the dive needed to show us the pictures that she had taken.

GF chilled out for a while with Cousteau-cub before headed back up north to to reclaim the missing Silver Vixen. She had made the most of the peace and quite to explore the resort a bit more, to swim and to start on another book. By mid-afternoon the exertions of the morning had caught up and GF retired to the room for a shower and a snooze.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Missing

IMG_6193 Just in case you are missing a sunset photo, the Gorse Fox presents this, taken from his balcony as the sun went down.

(By the way, none of these sunset photos has been enhanced or retouched in any way – this is exactly as they came out of the camera).

It’s a bit Eyrie

Sitting on the balcony the Gorse Fox and Silver Vixen enjoyed the 34C heat whilst remaining shaded.IMG_6160 The humidity of yesterday had lifted somewhat and it was quite comfortable watching the world below.

The beach appeared deserted, the only boats were out on the horizon. It would have been easy to believe we were entirely alone.

Gorse Fox’s iPod continued to leak “A Time Traveller’s Guide to the Fourteenth Century” into his consciousness whilst the Silver Vixen listened to “Lollipop Shoes”.


Our eagles returned. The Gorse Fox leapt to his feet and grabbed the camera from inside. Then had to wait for several minutes whilst the lens demisted, having hit the outside air. IMG_6166-1

His patience was rewarded when, after several photos of blank sky, the eagle swooped past the lens at just the right angle to show off his plumage.

GF is no ornithologist – but appreciates the sheer majesty of this creature as it goes about its daily rituals along with its mate.


We headed down to the beach and strolled along to a bar just south of the hotel. IMG_6174 This proved to be a find as we managed to get a couple of drinks for 100Baht… probably a quarter of the price at the pool bar in the hotel. From there we could clearly see our room hugging the side of the cliff behind us. And “no” we don’t have to climb up there to get to get to it. A nice little man in a buggy drives us up the hill whenever we want. (Given that some sections of the road are nearly 45 degrees…. that’s probably just as well in this heat).

After a few photos and a drink we headed back along the rustic beach IMG_6175 to the hotel and settled down by the pool. At least we did until the pool itself became so inviting that we dropped into the water for a long relaxing swim.

As the sun moved round and the day drew on we finally packed up to return to our room and get showered and ready for dinner.

Downtime

Cousteau-cub had administrative work to complete and the Coventry Hobbit had 3 dives scheduled – we decided that Wednesday would be quiet. Just as well really when we didn’t even wake up until 0900.

After breakfast we watched in fascination as a large lizard watched from the edge of the fish pools and competed with the fish for scraps being hurled in from the balcony. Must have been a Labour lizard as he was more interested in taking the scraps away from the fish, than actually eating them himself. A small heron-like (Lib-dem) bird came to join the fun but had limited success but evidently was entranced by the success of the Labour lizard’s skill in stealing everything from the fish. Gorse Fox felt there was a subliminal message here- but could not quite put his finger on it.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Back to work (Not !)

Whilst readers in the UK may be struggling to accept that the Bank Holiday is over… for us (with a certain frisson of smugness) it was another day of rest. IMAG0085 The diving of yesterday had taken a surprising toll – the Gorse Fox (normally a morning person) had significant trouble stirring himself and getting ready to go down for breakfast.

Cousteau-cub and the Coventry Hobbit were both out diving on boats with clients during the morning so the Silver Vixen and Gorse Fox decided to eschew the car (well car might be doing it a disservice – its a Mitsubishi Triton, pickup) and stay put on our balcony looking out over the Andaman Sea.


With iPods leaking audio books into our ears we had a very peaceful morning staying out of the sun and melting slowly in the humidity. Showers had been forecast as a possibility – but never amounted to anything on land.IMG_6140-1 The Gorse Fox observed a sea eagle soar past the balcony as it searched for prey. It seemed unaware of our presence a came within a few metres of us – huge reddy-brown wings stretched wide with black pinions. The sun seemed to make the feather almost glow as it searched – its white head and yellow eye-markings guiding it back and forth. Quite mesmerising.


Mid afternoon we headed back to Narima – which makes us feel so welcome that it’s like a home from home (but without having to do the chores). IMG_4448 Cousteau-cub was ready to continue Gorse Fox’s tuition. He managed to sort out his equipment and was soon in the pool. Like yesterday, he had some moments of anxiety as he first went down and tried to steady his breathing. After some 5 or 10 minutes he was settling and decided it was time to surface for a stern talking-to. Resting and talking through the intellectual barriers that seemed to be hampering him helped and he was soon ready to try again. Back at the bottom he practised his fin pivot, and his neutral buoyancy, then practised various out-of-air situations – He’s not sure, but was there a glint of glee in Cousteau-cub’s eye as she reached across and turn off his air supply?

The anxiety of yesterday’s session had dispersed and this session was far better. GF is not convinced he will ever find it natural, but at least he feels a little more confident about giving it a try.


IMG_6151 Finished, we headed the few steps to the beach where we enjoyed a cool drink and watched as the sun dipped towards the horizon.

This really is idyllic and it’s easy to see why Cousteau-cub and the Coventry Hobbit love it here – but boy, do they have to work hard.

With the sun finally set we retuned to the huge thatched, open-sided restaurant – we were the only guests. By this time Coventry Hobbit had joined us and we had a lovely meal before heading back to the hotel

Monday, May 03, 2010

Big day

Big day today. Gorse Fox started his diving course… and Silver Vixen got to meet the elephants.

(Not so many photos today – as you will see)

Things – needless to say – didn’t go quite to plan. The morning was spent going through the diving theory. Silver Vixen sat with GF on the balcony at Narima as Cousteau-cub  quizzed GF on the theory. It may not come as a great surprise that GF had no problems with that side of things.

During the afternoon the pace of life changed… GF’s theory needed some practical skills to accompany it, and Silver Vixen was there to shout encouragement whilst C-c patiently tried to teach an old dog some new tricks. Unfortunately. this old dog found some of the new tricks a little tricky and found that brain and body did not always coordinate the way in which they should. Donning a mask is easy enough (years in disguise as a super hero came in useful there) and even breathing through the regulator was not too taxing. But slipping below the water line whilst doing both seemed to be a paradigm shift that would not come easily. More than once he had to surface to complete basic functions (like breathing)… even though they should have been simple enough to do under water (if your brain is allowed to process all of the facts – rather than just the traditional ones).

Whilst GF was struggling to come to terms with losing a regulator, or clearing a mask, or maintaining neutral buoyancy the Silver Vixen went off with the Coventry Hobbit to meet the elephants. This was the highlight of her day – and she has taken huge amounts of video to capture the experience.

IMG_6130 We watched the sun go down from Narima and the Silver Vixen disappeared with the owner of the resort.

Some time later, after watching the sunset, then the afterglow, and then stars come out the Silver Vixen returned.

Dinner was ordered…

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Narima

Cousteau-cub and the Coventry Hobbit (and Bruno, the dog) live a few kilometres south of the resort where GF and the Silver Vixen are staying. Making the most of the transport that they had laid on, we drove south and spent the evening at the Narima resort. Their home is a bungalow just outside the grounds and they run the dive shop at the complex.

Making the most of their close relationship with the resort we had dinner in the vast open sided thatched hut. This was home to the restaurant, a bar, a shop, and the dive shop. It also had TV and that was showing the Liverpool-Chelsea football match, live. A fine way to enjoy an evening meal. Narima also provides free WiFi – so GF connected up to try and Skype with Urban-cub… but though she had been online earlier, she had dropped off to do some shopping by the time we were able to connect.

After dinner, plans were made for the morning and we headed back to Rawi Warin (our resort). It had been a good day.

In Paradiso

First impressions of Koh Lanta are that it is a little corner of Paradise.  2010-05-02 The stunning view from our apartment is like a magnet for the eyes – you just can’t quite drag your attention away.

(Also, moving from the air conditioned room to the humid balcony makes the lens of the camera mist up!!! This can be seen in the larger of these three photos). The plan for our first day on the island is – not to have a plan. A quiet day taking in the surroundings.


We took a quiet stroll through the gardens to the bar where breakfast was being served.2010-05-021  The grounds were beautifully manicured – with pools and ponds, waterfalls and small shaded pavilions and glades.  It was really quite magical – and once more, we seemed to have the place to ourselves

A wide ranging buffet ensured there was plenty to choose from for breakfast and provided a good start to the day. We continued our tour of the complex after eating and found a a sort of boutique that sold knick-knacks, sportswear, and some fabric. Needless to say we did not leave empty-handed.

Back at the room we changed – slapped sunscreen on our pale bodies, and headed back down to the beach and pool. 2010-05-022 Again, with the exception of about an hour during the mid-afternoon, we had the whole place to ourselves. This allowed us to get on with some reading (studying the dive books) and designing handbags (the Silver Vixen, not Gorse Fox) – and dropping into the se or pool when the mood took us. Cousteau-cub and the Coventry Hobbit turned up at about 4:30 to join us in the pool… and plan the evening’s entertainment (well, where we’d eat!).

(P.S. Any comments on the small collages as opposed to the individual photos posted before? GF though this may be a way of getting more visual information across quickly).